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Nikki Haley can still overshadow Trump

Photo: Chris Carlson Associated Press Wednesday morning, announcing her withdrawal from the race for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley refused to support her opponent's candidacy.

Fabien Deglise

March 6, 2024 Analysis

  • United States

She finally gave in. The day after Super Tuesday, a key moment in the American electoral cycle which confirmed on Tuesday evening in the majority of the 15 states called to the polls Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party, his ultimate opponent, Nikki Haley, decided on Wednesday morning to withdraw from the nomination race, without however giving his support to the ex-president.

The withdrawal is late for the 52-year-old politician, who, for months, had resisted the violence of intimidation from the hyper-favorite to better convey the voice of opposition to the populist within the Republican Party. And this, despite barely two small victories in a race visibly decided in advance: the first in the District of Columbia, Sunday; the second in Vermont, Tuesday.

The persistence and determination of the former United States ambassador to the United Nations to stand up to the populist could also continue to resonate for a long time — well beyond this end of the race — and negatively on the rest of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

“Nikki Haley stayed as long as possible to show that an alternative option to Donald Trump was possible,” summarizes political scientist Meredith Conroy, professor at California State University, in an interview . “But it also highlighted the fissures within the Republican electorate, which, yes, is leading Donald Trump toward the inevitability of his nomination in the primaries, but with support that is not what one might expect. 'wait for an ex-president. And the cracks that Nikki Haley has exposed could have consequences for him, in the context of a close presidential election, particularly in constituencies in states that matter. »

The primaries of New Hampshire and South Carolina, won by Donald Trump, have in fact revealed a trend that could weigh on the Republican candidate. Nearly two-thirds of independent and Republican voters in these states who have a college degree rejected the former reality TV star's candidacy, preferring Nikki Haley.

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By posing as a figure of renewal in the American conservative camp, the politician defied the predictions and managed to attract the attention and votes of more moderate (and generally more educated) Republicans in the suburbs. And it is there, in a few key states, that the vote in 2020 condemned Donald Trump to defeat against Joe Biden.

Tuesday evening, Nikki Haley let her opponent collect Utah's 40 delegates, not without getting 42% of the vote, mainly in the greater Salt Lake City area. She did the same thing in New Hampshire in January. In North Carolina, she also confirmed her appeal among Republicans in urban and peri-urban areas, nearly 250,000 of whom voted for her. All in a state won by Trump in the 2020 presidential election with a majority of 74,000 votes.

Risk of defections

“Nikki Haley is dangerous for Donald Trump and she will remain so,” says American politics specialist Quin Monson, contacted by Le Devoir at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “Of course, the proportion of Republican voters who dislike Donald Trump is nowhere near enough to block his path to the Republican nomination, but those same Republicans could decide to distance themselves from him during the general election or even abstain from voting next November. And these defections, even if they only affect a small percentage of this electorate, could be decisive. »

On Wednesday, leaving the race, Nikki Haley refused to endorse her opponent's candidacy, contrary to what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did when he ended his own campaign last January.

After raising the tone and criticism in the final months of her campaign against the ex-president and the chaotic years of his only term in the White House, she instead called on Donald Trump to “ win the votes of those in our party who did not support him,” she told her campaign team and many of her supporters gathered in her home state of South Carolina. “Now it’s his choice. »

A call hardly heard by the populist, who, far from burying the hatchet in the process, once again mocked the numerous defeats of Nikki Haley during Super Tuesday, by speaking on his social network of a “unruly who sets several records” and suspecting the Democratic vote of having granted him his only victory of Tuesday evening. Without providing proof.

He also invited “all Haley supporters to join the greatest movement in our nation's history”, MAGA (Make America Great Again), after spending months insulting his opponent, whom he regularly called him “bird brains” at his political rallies. In January, Donald Trump even attacked Nikki Haley's donors, saying they would be “permanently rejected from the MAGA camp.” “We don’t want them and we won’t accept them,” he wrote the day after the New Hampshire primary.

Outstretched hand

In the morning, a press secretary for Nikki Haley ironically highlighted the difference in tone between the two presidential candidates now guaranteed to meet next November — Donald Trump and Joe Biden — to comment on the withdrawal from his boss.

President Biden in fact praised in a press release the “courage” of Nikki Haley for running for president for a party which “does not dare to confront the truth about Donald Trump”. “Nikki Haley was not afraid to tell the truth about Trump, about the chaos that still follows him, about his inability to know right from wrong or about his aplaventrism in the face of Vladimir Putin,” he added.

He also invited the Republican’s supporters to come to him: “I know there are a lot of things we won’t agree on. But on the fundamental issues of protecting American democracy, defending the rule of law, decency, dignity, respect, defending NATO and standing up to America's adversaries. 'America, I believe we can find common ground. »

Last August, Nikki Haley pledged to the Republican National Committee to support the party's possible candidate in the current presidential race. The thing was then a condition for participation in the first debate of the candidates for these primaries, a debate in which Donald Trump did not bother to participate.

This support from the winner, despite the harshness and violence of the confrontation between the last candidates, was also profitable for Ronald Reagan in 1976. The former actor ended up supporting the candidacy of Gerald Ford, after a bitter primary. punctuated by several low blows and significant tensions between the two aspiring presidents. A decision which made him the heir apparent to the Republican ticket four years later, after Jimmy Carter's only mandate, and which took him to the White House.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116